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Dr. Christine McMichael Published in Journal of Environmental Management

by admin last modified 2007-05-03 10:37

Predicting streamflow response to fire-induced landcover change: Implications of parameter uncertainty in the MIKE SHE model

Christine McMichael - Institute for Regional Analysis and Public Policy, Morehead State University, 150 University Boulevard, Morehead, KY 40351-1689, USA


Alan S. Hope - Department of Geography, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-4493, USA


Fire is a primary agent of landcover transformation in California semi-arid shrubland watersheds, however few studies have examined the impacts of fire and post-fire succession on streamflow dynamics in these basins. While it may seem intuitive that larger fires will have a greater impact on streamflow response than smaller fires in these watersheds, the nature of these relationships has not been determined. The effects of fire size on seasonal and annual streamflow responses were investigated for a medium-sized basin in central California using a modified version of the MIKE SHE model which had been previously calibrated and tested for this watershed using the Generalized Likelihood Uncertainty Estimation methodology. Model simulations were made for two contrasting periods, wet and dry, in order to assess whether fire size effects varied with weather regime. Results indicated that seasonal and annual streamflow response increased nearly linearly with fire size in a given year under both regimes. Annual flow response was generally higher in wetter years for both weather regimes, however a clear trend was confounded by the effect of stand age. These results expand our understanding of the effects of fire size on hydrologic response in chaparral watersheds, but it is important to note that the majority of model predictions were largely indistinguishable from the predictive uncertainty associated with the calibrated model—a key finding that highlights the importance of analyzing hydrologic predictions for altered landcover conditions in the context of model uncertainty. Future work is needed to examine how alternative decisions (e.g., different likelihood measures) may influence GLUE-based MIKE SHE streamflow predictions following different size fires, and how the effect of fire size on streamflow varies with other factors such as fire location.

Keywords: Fire; Uncertainty; Streamflow; Modelling


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